Having a good curriculum vitae (CV, or Lebenslauf in German) is quite probably the most important step in finding a job in Germany. However, there are some small but crucial differences you need to be aware of when writing your CV. Getting it right, by formatting your resume in a style German employers will recognise, gives you the best chance of landing an interview.
How to write a CV (Lebenslauf) in Germany
In contrast to CVs in many other countries, CVs in Germany are simple “fact sheets”, listing experience, skills and education in a way that is free from embellishment, business jargon or buzzwords. Instead of being a sales pitch, German CVs let the facts speak for themselves. To a lesser extent, the same principle also applies to cover letters.
Although, of course, there is no perfect way to write a CV in Germany, in general, they tend to follow the following structure:
1st section: Personal information (Persönliche Angaben)
In this first section, you list your personal details. Make sure to include the following:
- First and last name
- Date of birth
- Marital status
- Contact information
- Passport-size photo
- Profile (Profil) - a short description of yourself and your skills / experience / qualifications
2nd section: Education (Ausbildung)
In this section, you detail your education (including secondary and higher education). Make sure to include the name of your university and the programme you studied. Many people also include specific modules or areas of study within the degree programme that are relevant to the position.
3rd section: Work experience (berufliche Erfahrung)
List your previous work experience in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent. For each position, include the name of the company, the dates you worked there, the title of the position you held, and your key responsibilities. Here is a good place to also outline any major achievements, but make sure you stick to the facts.
Final section: Other skills / achievements (Sonstiges)
You can use this section to list any other qualifications, skills or achievements that are relevant to the role, such as computer skills, language abilities or certifications. German CVs don’t typically include details about personal interests or hobbies, which are considered superfluous by most hiring managers.
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Should I write my CV in German or English?
If your language ability is up to it, it’s a good idea to write your CV in German (unless the job profile specifies otherwise). German is the language generally spoken in the workplace, even if the official company language is English, and speaking it may give you an edge over other candidates. On the other hand, if you have little or no German, writing your CV in German may give a false impression that your language ability is better than it is.
Tips for writing a German CV
- Keep it factual; waffle and fluff do not go down well in the German job market.
- Listing all of your experience, skills and qualifications may not necessarily be helpful - keep it to the point by only listing those that are relevant to the role.
- Recruiters scan numerous CVs for the same position, so get yours noticed by keeping it short - no longer than two pages.
- Make your CV appealing by choosing an appropriate font; avoid dense writing and too many bold or underlined sections.
- Keep it snappy by using bullet points rather than long paragraphs.
- Adjust your CV for different applications to make sure everything you list is relevant to the role you are applying for.
- Be aware of linguistic errors and typos - double, triple, quadruple check it and ask for a second pair of eyes!
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